“Being young today is different.”
What is the meaning of life? Is there a God? When does one finally become an adult? These are the questions that continue to plague mankind in a modern civilization. The millennial generation has seen its sure-fire headlines all targeted as “blame the millennials” for one thing or another. A lack of inconsistency and “exploring the new” have often labeled us as being ill-prepared, or as director Joachim Trier illustrates through his female protagonist Julie, “a bit flaky.”
The Worst Person in the World asks the old question of when does one become an adult, and what do you do when you “become one.” Julie (Renate Reinsve) begins as a mild-mannered woman, who having done well in school during her youth, majors in medicine, because that’s what she felt is her next step. Her logic: why else did she get good grades in school if she could’ve just majored in something less demanding. Her passion is no longer in medicine, and she soon leaves her lab coat behind, dyes her hair pink, and begins to change her trajectory in life. She jumps from career field to career field—first psychology and the human mind, then photography—finding pieces of herself along the way. Her relationships are no different as she finds pleasure with a few men, but soon finds meaning in her relationship with Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie)—an older man and comic book writer who falls in love with Julie’s spontaneity.
As we weave through the story, we see Julie embrace the odyssey of her late 20s into early 30s, no matter how complex it is. Her life is forever changing and she loves it that way. She refuses to be tied down. And as so many young people nowadays want to escape that planned future, (next step marriage and kids) so does Julie. In just one of the first chapters does the question of “you’re getting older, when are you going to settle down and have kids,” conversation begin to surface. The film never tries to portray Julie in an unblemished light. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. We see her at her most beautiful and her most tragic. We see her wins and losses, or when she’s vulnerable or scared.
Trier is an absolute master of capturing the complexities of the human emotions. His previous outstanding work Oslo: August 31st is utterly remarkable as it illustrates a recovering drug addict, examining his own self-worth throughout a single day. Trier can bring out even the quietest emotions within the actors through the camera. You feel every feeling, even the ones that aren’t being said. That’s the mark of a great filmmaker.
The Worst Person in the World may exemplify a great filmmaker, but it could not happen without this fabulous cast. Reinsve is another fantastic female performance of 2021 that should be widely recognized. She is the glue that keeps this film together. She is the performance that keeps this film running. With a wide range of emotions that Julie goes through, Reinsve talents speak for itself. She can be transfixed, alone with a camera, and the camera just falls in love with her. As for Julie’s lovers played by Herbert Nordrum and Danielsen Lie, both are incredible next to Reinsve. But Danielsen Lie’s, Aksel, is on another level. His acting in Oslo: August 31st was mesmerizing. But here, well, there’s nothing I will forget about him. Aksel is the calming nature to Julie’s fire, but they blend so well together. Reinsve and Danielsen Lie are beautiful onscreen and their chemistry is perfect. The scenes towards the end of the film—as Julie’s odyssey of youth is near completion, yet still ongoing—are conversations of genuine friendship. Those meaningful talks that everyone has at least once in your life.
Julie in 12 chapters with prologue and epilogue is what makes up The Worst Person in the World. Trier comes out with his best film yet: a lovely story that perfectly encapsulates the ups and downs of a new generation. While you’re on your way to finding yourself in a complicated world, sometimes it may get messy. But sometimes, if we just wait, the beautiful moments may be like time is standing still, and the only ones moving are you and the one you love.
The Worst Person in the World
Directed by: Joachim Trier
Written by: Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt
Starring: Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, and Herbert Nordrum